Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Blue Train
Blue Train of South Africa

It was a few weeks ago that my assistance, or should I say my SUV’s assistance, was needed to help move my daughter to Rocky Mountain House. It’s been a long time since I’ve done a road trip by myself. I’d forgotten how much I loved it – at least for the first few hours.

It made me think of the “good old days” – in my case the ‘60s and ‘70s – when road trips were considered a form of entertainment. With no particular destination in mind, we’d hop in the car and just go for a drive. Maybe an afternoon excursion out to the countryside or a late night cruise down Memorial Drive along the riverfront. It was a real pleasure – no rush, no road rage and the cost of gas was a non-issue.

Lately, and in my line of work, the extent of my travel has consisted of driving as far as the airport and we all know how much fun air travel is nowadays. Drive to the airport, park in airport parking, wait for the bus to the terminal, check-in and wait, go through security and wait, get to the other end and wait for your luggage, and finally line-up for your rental car or cab.

In the late 1960s, my father was flying for Pan Arctic Exploration in Churchill, Manitoba. When it was decided he was going to stay for a while, it became my mother’s job to pack up the kids and join him. My mother is known for never doing anything halfway, bless her heart, and decided we should travel first class and booked us cabins on Canadian Pacific Railway from Calgary to Winnipeg. We had a sitting room, our own beds and a private bathroom.

Without a word of a lie, out of all my adventures to date, this trip across the prairies was the most memorable. There is nothing like the train in style! I remember sitting in my little room curled up in a comfy chair staring out that massive picture window and, even though the prairies of Saskatchewan is more sky than scenery, I was in heaven! Sometime during the evening, that sneaky porter would enter our room (I could never catch him) and transform our little space into a bedroom. Sleep came easily and quickly as I was lulled to sleep by the movement and clickity-clack of the train on the tracks.

Meals were served in the dining car. Just saying “dining car” makes me feel so romantic. As a child who watched any movie that included travel, I pretended I was on the Orient Express traveling on an exotic and dangerous journey. Poor Eva Marie Saint would be given the old heave-ho and I’d insert myself across the table from Cary Grant in one of my favourite movies North by Northwest.

Then there was that elegant and forbidden lounge car, which I could only peek into at the time. But I imagined very elegant and important people passing the time indulging in drinks with swizzlesticks, umbrellas and secrets.

First class train travel is a gift for the soul. Put it on your Bucket List and start saving your sheckles. The self-indulgence and restfulness will do you good. You are an important person, you’ve worked hard and you deserve it! Even if it is just once.

As an aside, cabins on Canada’s Via Rail are not nearly as expensive as you may think. If you’ve never experienced train travel, I would suggest this would be a great place to start. The further ahead you book, the cheaper it is.

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